Tornadoes strike Oklahoma City again, killing at least nine
Eleven days after savage twister flattened suburb of Moore, Midwestern community awakes again to scene of destruction and at least nine deaths
Eleven days after a tornado killed 24 people and destroyed hundreds of homes, Oklahoma City and its suburbs awoke yesterday to the aftermath of Round 2.
A storm on Friday set off tornadoes and severe flooding that caused widespread damage throughout the region and claimed at least nine victims, including two children.
None of the tornadoes were as powerful as the one that tore through much of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, on May 20. But the high winds, hail and heavy rain wreaked their own sort of havoc on the city and suburbs to the west.
Articulated trucks were overturned, motorists stranded on flooded streets and passengers at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were forced into underground tunnels to seek shelter.
Aerial images showed muddy water covering roads around Oklahoma City and El Reno, about 50 kilometres to the west.
The sound of sirens sent people in Moore and elsewhere in the Midwestern state scrambling for cover again, but meteorologists said the storm's fury did not match that of the twister last month.
A mother and baby were killed while travelling on Interstate 40, just west of Oklahoma City, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. "It is a heartbreaking situation," she said.
The highway was shut down because of the storm, with multiple crashes and injuries. Several people were hurt in crashes and overturned vehicles, including large trucks, Randolph said.
More than 40 people were being treated for storm-related injuries, including five in critical condition, among them a child, the Oklahoma-based Integris Health hospital system said.
Meteorologists had earlier declared a tornado emergency for parts of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and at one point they posted a tornado warning for Moore.
Moore had limited damage from the latest storm activity, said a police dispatcher for the city.
While storms continued to pass through the state, Keli Cain of Oklahoma Emergency Management said, "they're much less severe".
The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Centre in Norman, Oklahoma, warned that the severe weather was shifting eastward yesterday, with the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys set to receive the bulk of the storms. In Missouri, which borders the Mississippi River, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.
Reports said five twisters had struck the area around Oklahoma City, with winds of up to 145km/h, accompanied by very large hailstones.
"For reasons that are not clear to me, more people took to the roads, more than we expected. Everyone acted differently in this storm, and as a result, it created an extremely dangerous situation," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
"I think we are still a little shaken by what happened in Moore. We are still burying children and victims, so our emotions are still strong," he added.
Brandi Vanalphen, 30, was among the hundreds of drivers trapped on traffic-snarled roads as she attempted to flee the tornado system menacing the suburb of Norman.
"What got me scared was being stuck in traffic with sirens going off," she said. "I started seeing power flashes to the north, and I said, 'Screw this.' I started driving on the shoulder."
Reuters, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, McClatchy Tribune